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February 1, 2009

Your money or your life — Some US Airways 'Miracle on the Hudson' passengers want more than a $5,000 check for their trouble

Two weeks ago USA Airways decided to send $5,000 checks to each passenger aboard the "Miracle on the Hudson" flight that crashed-landed in the river January 15, 2009 (above and below).

Now many of the passengers are saying that's not enough.


Should you be delighted at having been given a second chance at life, without regard to anything else — or demand a king's ransom for the trauma?

Here's Gary Stoller's January 26, 2009 USA Today story about the burgeoning controversy.


US Airways passengers get $5,000 each — is it enough?

Many US Airways passengers who endured a crash landing in the Hudson River 12 days ago say they appreciate the $5,000 that the airline has offered — but some say it's not enough.
Joe Hart, a salesman from Charlotte who suffered a bloody nose and bruises, says he "would like to be made whole for the incident."
It's too soon after the accident to determine what emotional distress he has suffered, he says.
He's one of 150 passengers who were dramatically rescued Jan. 15, when the Charlotte-bound Airbus A320 jet safely ditched into the frigid river off Midtown Manhattan. A pilot on the plane told air-traffic controllers that birds struck the plane before both engines failed after takeoff from New York's LaGuardia Airport.

After the crash, US Airways sent passengers a letter of apology, a $5,000 check to assist "with immediate needs" and reimbursement for the ticket.

Exactly how much compensation is appropriate is a question after crashes.

The National Air Disaster Alliance & Foundation, a safety advocacy group, says $5,000 is not enough.

"We're grateful everyone survived, and the captain on the plane was so marvelous," says Gail Dunham, the group's executive director. "But passengers lost luggage, briefcases, cellphones, BlackBerrys and business documents, and went through a terrific ordeal."

Like many, Hart says he left a lot of items behind and doesn't know which ones may be lost.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates aviation accidents, wants to examine baggage and belongings, and determine how much they weighed on the plane, says spokesman Peter Knudson.

It could take "weeks or months" before they are returned to passengers, he says.

Hart and another passenger, Dave Sanderson, say they each left more than $5,000 worth of items on the plane.

Sanderson, a sales manager in Charlotte, says US Airways' letter and checks were "a nice gesture," and the airline's personnel "have treated me like gold since the incident."

US Airways Vice President Jim Olson says that an insurance claims specialist is contacting passengers and that they'll be reimbursed for expenses or losses above $5,000.

The airline wants to ensure no passenger is "losing money for the inconvenience or anything lost during the accident," he says.

Under Department of Transportation regulations, airlines are liable for up to $3,300 per passenger for checked bags that are lost or damaged on a domestic flight. Most airlines disclaim liability for carry-on bags unless a crewmember stowed the bag, says Bill Mosley, a department spokesman.

In addition to recovering losses, Hart says he's concerned about having trouble flying. He's flown on six planes since the accident, and each flight has gotten "progressively more difficult."

He says he was tense, sweated and "felt every bit of turbulence" on a Los Angeles-to-Philadelphia flight last week, though it wasn't that turbulent a flight.

Hart says he has talked to a lawyer in North Carolina but hasn't decided whether to take any legal action.

"I want to see how things play out with US Airways," he says. "I'm hopeful US Airways understands the significance of the incident."

Kreindler & Kreindler, a New York law firm that has represented plaintiffs in crashes, says it has been contacted by several passengers on the US Airways flight.

The firm's lawyers are determining what injuries and emotional distress passengers may have suffered, and what parties might be liable under New York state law, says Noah Kushlefsky, a partner in the firm.

In many aviation accidents, survivors have claimed post-traumatic stress disorder. To recover damages, plaintiffs have to prove that injury or distress was caused by negligence, or the jet or its engines not performing as they should, Kushlefsky says. New York law requires a lawsuit to be filed within three years of an incident, he says.

Sanderson, a father of four, says he's thankful he could celebrate his 48th birthday on Friday and has no reason to talk to an attorney.

"US Air has been doing the right thing," he says. "Everyone is acting in a responsible way."

Fred Berretta, who suffered a small cut on his head during the crash landing, says US Airways representatives have called frequently and treated him very well. He says that a few personal mementos from his father were left behind but that the money sent by US Airways covers the value of his belongings.

Berretta, who works for a financial services company, was flown home to Charlotte after the crash on his company's jet.

"I'm a private pilot, and I'm sure I'll be flying again," he says. "But it might be a little while before I fly for pleasure again."

Amber Wells of Charlotte says she's so thankful to have survived and to be with her 9-month-old daughter, Rayley, that she hasn't had time to think about her belongings.

She says she lost $2,000 of nursing equipment and a laptop computer, as well as a checked bag and a carry-on bag.

"Everything that's gone can be replaced," says Wells, 34, a senior manager for NASCAR. "My life cannot be replaced."


The New York Post reported this past Friday, January 30, that US Airways has just given first-class upgrades — for one year — to all the passengers who were on Flight 1549.

Long story short: Many passengers are outraged by what they consider US Airways' attempt to lowball them.


Next Sunday (February 8, 2009) on "60 Minutes," Captain Chesley Sullenberger speaks publicly for the first time about the flight.

February 1, 2009 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Programmable Talking Tire Pressure Gauge


TechnoDolts™ will please move along, nothing to see here.

From websites:


Programmable Talking Air Gauge

Talking air gauge calls out the tire pressure!

If your eyes are having trouble reading a tire gauge, how about one with a lighted tip that talks to you and tells you the tire pressure?

Simply push the nozzle of the gauge onto the tire's valve stem and the gauge will speak the air pressure!

You can also program in the front and rear tire pressures (seems like I'm always searching for this information in my manual) so you know where to set them quickly.

Place one in every glove box ... because it's my guess your tires are under-inflated and the increase you'll see in fuel mileage will pay for this gauge in no time!


True enough, I suppose — assuming you're able to figure out how to use it.


For the rest of us, there's this one,


featured here last year.

I've got one and it works just like the man said.

Plus, it's 20% cheaper.

February 1, 2009 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Heaven is a restaurant called Tara Thai


The Richmond-based chain opened a Charlottesville branch last month.

Bonus: It's less than two miles from my house.

Yesterday I tried it for the first time, ordering a variety of dishes for carry-out, enough to take me through tonight's Super Bowl.

I skipped fried things, figuring they're always best right in the restaurant, hot off the wok.

FunFact: Tempura ideally is consumed within one minute of its removal from the cooking oil.

But I digress.

My verdict on Tara Thai's food: Mmmmmm.

Every one of the six items I ordered was very good, with my favorite being the Spicy Eggplant (slices of eggplant stir-fried with hot chili, garlic and fresh basil).

Highly recommended.

I'll be hitting this place prolly every two weeks from now on.

This might be the venue if I ever have a bookofjoe event.

Real soon now.

February 1, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Trek Wine Karafe


From websites:


Trek Wine Carafe

How to preserve your reserve on the trail

Lightweight shatterproof steel container holds approximately 750 ml (26 oz.) — the contents of a wine bottle.

Electropolished stainless steel delivers a clean, chemical-free taste with no hint of previous contents.

Hand-washable polypropylene cap provides a leakproof seal.

Carafe is dishwasher-safe.


Merlot (top right): $23.

Stainless Steel (top left): $24.95.

February 1, 2009 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Stencil Generator


Make your own.

[via Milena]

February 1, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Cool Lap Computer Desk


This is one tricked-out bed tray.

From the website:


Cool Lap Computer Desk

This foldable desk not only lifts hot portable computers off laps, but it also provides a rich stereo system for the computer or any MP3 player or gaming device.

Constructed of durable lightweight ABS plastic, the desktop surface is angled 15°, an ideal position for typing while you are seated in bed.

Powered by a USB connection to the computer, the 2.1-channel amplifier drives two 5-watt speakers and a 10-watt subwoofer.

Two quiet, integrated fans positioned under the keyboard spin at 1,500 rpm to keep the laptop cool even with extended use.

Buttons on the desk control speaker volume and muting as well as turning the fan on and off independently.

The desk can also be powered by four D batteries (not included).

Folds flat [below] for easy transportation or storage.

14.5"H x 30.5"W x 13.5"D.

9.5 lbs.



$99.95 (computer not included).

February 1, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Chris Benson is 'the record cutter' — Keeping vinyl alive


Long story short: Chris Benson (above) is a master engineer who uses a restored 1966 Neumann VMS-66 record lathe to cut grooves the old-fashioned way.

Here's last week's Associated Press story about one of the last links to the way things used to be.


Louisa man makes vinyl records, keeps a tradition alive

When Vampire Weekend — the hottest indie band in the 2008 blogosphere — played two sold-out shows at the 9:30 Club last month, its merchandise table featured 12-inch vinyl LPs of their debut album.

People were buying them, and plenty of those customers were young. Teens. Kids.

It's hard to deny: Music history is repeating itself at 33 rpm.

At Chris Benson's studio in Louisa County, you can watch the real-time birth of a record. Benson is a master engineer, a trade that should have died when CDs came along in 1980. He uses a restored 1966 Neumann VMS-66 record lathe to cut grooves on blank lacquer discs.

"This machine was responsible for two Led Zeppelin albums and a Pink Floyd album," he said, referring to his exact lathe before getting more general. "This is the only way vinyl records are made."

Concerning The Cut

The basic record-making process hasn't changed much since the early 1900s. Essentially, Benson uses an electric version of the technique Thomas Edison invented for his wax cylinders in 1877. Sound vibrates the needle, the needle etches a pattern in the blank record.

Once Benson has a disc cut, it can go one of two ways. The lacquer record can be used as-is on any record player — something disc jockeys refer to as a "dub plate." If the lacquer disc is a "master," it will be sent to a record-pressing company that uses the master to make a metal mold. A mechanical press sandwiches hot vinyl between the sides of the mold, and a slew of mass-produced vinyl records are born.

Years have passed and increased sophistication has brought complexity.

Early commercial recordings were actually cut directly to the disc with the help of a megaphone, then microphones. In the 1950s, recordings were stored on magnetic tape, then played back to cut the record.

Benson's setup is a tangle of wires, meters, buttons and sliders. There are a number of intermediate steps between his computer, where this particular recording is stored, and a finished record, but it all comes to a point where a sapphire-tipped needle, thinner than a human hair, cuts the groove.

"There's no magical science to it, and you don't need anything fancy," he said. "It's really a rudimentary and crude machine."

But making it work properly takes specific mechanical knowledge, strict attention to detail and a lot of patience. A stray hair or a nearly invisible speck of dust can send the needle off track and mar a recording.

Benson might scrap three or four discs before he gets a flawless record.

Benson explained the process as he set a fresh disc on the lathe. He leaned over the stylus and dropped it into the blank record, focused on the "chip" — a minuscule thread of lacquer being removed by the needle.

"I won't ever buy an LP again," he said. "I can cut my own."

Rebirth Of The Record

Benson's nom de guerre, "The Record Cutter," is informative whether he is spinning electronic dance music or transferring sounds to vinyl. Both are passions of his, but the latter has reached obsessive levels.

Benson sees himself as a technician, an artist and an important link in the thin chain of master engineers. He is trying to keep vinyl alive.

To do so is not a matter of marketing the nearly century-old technology to modern consumers. The demand is already there.

Ask an audiophile about the benefits of vinyl and you will probably get a lot of touchy-feely woo-woo about "warmth," "richness," and "depth." Compare that to the sleek chill of an iPod and records just sound outdated and inconvenient.

But pick up an LP and try to ignore its primal connection to the music. The size, the heft, the storybook record sleeve falling open with unexpected details — all of it in service of the shiny, grooved platter within. Handle it with care, because those minute grooves are music — the actual, physical destruction caused by air molecules in motion.

Vinyl inspires respect in a way digital streams of ones and zeroes never will. The song is literally in your hands. Look close enough and you can see it.

"Vinyl is like paper. People will always use it," Benson said.

He is more concerned with who will make the records, and what tools will be available. Record lathes are no longer manufactured.

"As long as people take care of these machines, vinyl will be around. People need to learn about this."

The overall music industry has shriveled with the advent of the MP3, but vinyl sales have been booming. Big discs still account for only a fraction of sales, but their share of the market is growing. Vinyl's popularity is such that plenty of Top-10 artists will press at least a short run of vinyl for collectors, hard-core fans and DJs. For example, most of Radiohead's albums are available on vinyl.

Jack Morrison owned Blue Dog Records and Tapes on Caroline Street in downtown Fredericksburg. The store closed nearly four years ago, after an industry-wide slowdown in CD sales. There was a bright spot, however.

"We sold vinyl more and more as CD sales went down," Morrison said. "Kids were buying vinyl, too."

He devoted more space to the big discs.

"People would come in and say, 'Wow, I didn't know they still made these.'"

Morrison was not a vinyl fan at first, but he came around. He kept one of the store's LP racks; it holds his personal vinyl collection now.

"It took a lot of convincing for me," he said. "The highs can sometimes be too tinny, but it really does have the warmer sound people talk about."

He believes he could have kept the store open just selling vinyl if Fredericksburg's student population had been a little bigger.

In some larger cities, specialty stores have been able to make a profit selling music on vinyl, nary a CD on their shelves. As more artists release their albums on vinyl, the medium has gained respect among mainstream consumers.

Coming Back Around

When bands and record labels want to sell vinyl, they turn to the few obsessives who cut records.

"Those multi-million-dollar companies come to people like me," Benson said.

For now, he cuts custom records for DJs and lesser-known punk bands, but at 30, he is a toddler in the world of record-cutting. If vinyl hangs on, artists might need his skills. Regardless, he hopes to inspire the next generation of master engineers.

"Vinyl is never going to die," Benson insisted.

At some point, a master engineer like Benson was hunched over a record lathe, staring at a needle as it etched the grooves of that Vampire Weekend album. Like Benson, that person might have been working in a homemade studio. It had to start somewhere.

With vinyl, it starts and ends with sound. The vibrations in the air, frozen in time. Compared to CDs, vinyl records seem quaint, but they also seem natural — the organic extension of a voice or a guitar.

"All sound on this planet is really one sound," Benson said. "It's like ripples on a pond. It's that simple."

February 1, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Endo Magnet Clip — 'No internal moving parts' (Yesterday's 'What is it?')


That means its springy clipping action results from its design — I like that in a fridge magnet.

Pink, Black, White, Green, Yellow or Red.

Three for $9.99-$11.99.              

[via Milena]

February 1, 2009 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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